Board Spotlight Series: James Higa

This is a series in which we recognize USJC Board Members, who provide generous contributions, support and guidance to the Council. We hope the USJC community will get to know them better on a professional and personal level! 

Meet James Higa, Managing Partner, Offline Ventures; Member, USJC Board of Directors 

Photo courtesy of Chris Michel 

How did you first become involved with USJC and what does USJC mean to you?

Irene and Dan were the spark. Dan Okimoto, who was my undergraduate advisor, asked me to participate. The only answer in that instance was, “Yes sir, what time sir.” And I was invited to the USJC Annual Conference in Washington, DC shortly after. A very close friend had passed away that week but I decided to attend anyway. Irene went out of her way to comfort and welcome me as did everyone else, and there in DC, I found my tribe.
What makes you passionate about contributing to the U.S.-Japan relationship?

Steve Jobs and I were mentored by people like Akio Morita of Sony, Konosuke Matsushita of Panasonic, and Keizo Yamaji of Canon. The personal bonds we had with these iconic Japanese entrepreneurs changed the history of Silicon Valley and Apple. The enduring question for me is how can we create these new peer-to-peer bonds for the next generation of leaders across the Pacific.
What areas would you like to see USJC focus on for future programming and other activities?

1. It always comes down to people. They are the source of energy and goodness. So we must always focus on developing the next generation of leaders and helping our current leaders nurture a growth mindset. 

2. Understanding where we have been is important but so is the ability to imagine where we want to go. In that spirit, I hope we will learn to constantly peer forward to imagine, adapt, and change to new needs and challenges. Today, these challenges may be sustainability or what leadership looks like in an online world but what is certain is that the universe will throw us curve balls. We have to learn how to look for and hit those too. A flexible growth mindset applies to program development and activities as well.

What professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

I volunteered for on-the-ground relief work, especially in the application of technology, during the 1995 Kobe earthquake and the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disasters. It may have only been a small dent I made but these small things are just as important an accomplishment as the plaque-worthy recognitions.
Most people have heard of iTunes or iPhone but very few people other than software programmers know about Unicode. Unicode is the encoding standard that enables all our computers, web pages, and apps to be multilingual and seamlessly handle all the languages in the world. I was part of the small working group that developed the specifications and lobbied for it to be the defacto global standard. In the long run, this invisible but enabling technology has had the immeasurable impact of making the Internet and Information revolution accessible to literally everyone in the world.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

Two of my favorite things in life, travel and food, have been curtailed due to COVID. Exploring the endless beauty in our world and breaking bread with friends and family are the two things I cannot wait to enjoy again. In the meantime, at-home SoulCycle spinning classes and reading up on the history of the Olympic Movement are my go to activities.